Forms of engagement and the heterogenous citizen: Towards a reflexive model for youth workshops

James Arvanitakis, Bob Hodge


Abstract

This article focuses on the challenges confronted by contemporary universities when they undertake ‘community engagement’ activities through the lens of an active citizenship workshop we have designed and implemented. We begin by concentrating on the very concept of ‘engagement’, unpicking its ambiguities and returning its complexities to where they belong – in social experience. As both practitioners and researchers involved in many years of ‘engagement’, we reflect on the aim, purpose and outcomes of such activities. Drawing on the theoretical traditions of educator Paulo Freire and philosopher Martin Heidegger, we apply our engagement activities and citizenship workshops to the aspiration of transformational change: both for those who participate in the activities and for us, as educators. We thus use ‘engagement’ as a guide to making better and more strategic interventions in the three sets of relationships inextricably involved in ‘active citizenship’ projects: ‘engaged research’ with academic and other partners; our own ‘engagement’ with the young people we work with; and finally, their ‘engagement’ as citizens with the rest of society.

Keywords: Citizenship, engagement, active citizens, threshold, transformative change

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